The one Black Friday item that Anne and I wanted more than any other this year was cheap pillows. We’re that old now.
[The scene: Kip and Kasi Kay travel from their hometown of Lewiston, Indiana, to do some shopping at a quaint stretch of stores up in the Big City. It’s the weekend after Governor Mike Pence signed Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law and dramatically improved the world and changed lives and ushered in a new era of human greatness and so on.]
KIP: Hello, beer man! We would like ten kegs of your finest brew.
KASI: We need it for tonight’s white-power rally.
LIQUOR STORE OWNER: What? Uh, no. You can go now.
KASI: But we have money and we brought our own truck.
LIQUOR STORE OWNER: Sorry, no. My church believes God created all humans as equals regardless of skin color. I can’t possibly.
KIP: We didn’t ask. Here, have money.
LIQUOR STORE OWNER: No can do. RFRA, folks.
KIP: What’s a roofra?
LIQUOR STORE OWNER: New law just took effect. Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Way I took it to mean, I don’t have to make any sale that offends me on religious grounds. Racists are one way.
KASI: You only sell to non-racists? Do you actually ask everyone? Is there a test they have to take before you’ll let customers go get drunk?
LIQUOR STORE OWNER: Who I sell to and when I sell it to ’em is my business. Good day, folks.
KIP: We’ll get you for this!
LIQUOR STORE OWNER: Wouldn’t advise it. I’m in the alcohol industry. I know some people you don’t wanna know.
[Kip and Kasi exit, confused and upset. Later that night, an angel leaves a quarter under Mike Pence’s pillow.]
It was that time of year again! Black Friday has become that highly anticipated, deeply dreaded, beneficial, violent, invigorating, intimidating, fulfilling, decaying, economically necessary, ethically questionable, joyous holiday and/or time of mourning for everyone’s souls. Depending on who’s asking, it’s shopping as a competitive sport, or shopping as the closest American society comes to legalizing The Purge. It’s a great time for rock-bottom bargains, or it’s a time for suckers to get stuck with retailers’ unwanted, defective leftovers. It’s when the Christmas season begins for real, or it’s the ultimate defamation to the name of Christ.
Reporters spend the day prowling for cautionary tales of merchandise hoarding gone wrong, of consumer entitlement run amuck, of retailer manipulation backfiring, of fisticuffs and gunfights, of hair-pulling and cheek-slapping. Somewhere out there, shoppers will be boxing for the privilege to take home a ten-dollar panini maker that the manufacturer discontinued due to exploding wiring, and any number of news crews mean to catch it on tape before some lucky amateurs capture and post it on YouTube first. Everyone tells themselves it’s all part of the Game and complains about the system while continuing to do their part.
Black Friday used to be my thing. In recent years I’ve scaled back my expectations and participation. No more arising at 4 a.m. or earlier like a shopping zombie that thinks “doorbusters” is a synonym for “brains”. No more scheming for the largest tech items that’ll be stocked at a maximum of two per store. No more long shopping lists requiring fifteen or twenty stops’ worth of hunting and gathering.
This year I implemented more modifications to my approach. This is how my Black Friday 2014 turned out:
The scene above was part of today’s breakfast: a pumpkin donut. Only because it’s that time of year when every American has a pumpkin quota to fulfill. My part is done. I’m legally free to move on and go back to eating normal food in the flavors I like.
Every year the same product wave pummels all consumer shorelines: pumpkins are in, everything else is out. Pumpkin flavors permeate and overwhelm every conceivable grocery item, restaurant dish, and miscellaneous product or service. Looking away or hiding are futile defenses because pumpkin surrounds you in every direction from your personal space to the horizon. You’ll never be allowed to exit autumn until and unless you surrender to the will of Big Pumpkin.
But I’ve never owned an Apple product, bearing in mind that digital downloads barely count as “ownership” in my mind, and my iTunes “library” so far is more like a Hot Wheels bookmobile. Apple’s ostentatious new-product announcements are usually outside my fields of interest. I’m not an early adopter in any tech-related areas. At all.
New iPhone? Pass. My phone is a Samsung S2 that accomplishes my simple daily needs as long as I remember to reboot once a week. (Longtime MCC readers may recall I was once staunchly anti-smartphone in general, until life gave me reasons not to be.) My phone isn’t broken, and once survived a ten-foot drop onto a metal catwalk with zero damage. I’m good for now.
New smartwatch with triple-digit price tag? Pass. I can’t function away from home without wearing a watch (see: “old”), but I rarely need to shop for a new one because any given fifteen-dollar waterproof department-store digital watch with a lithium battery will last me years. They’re arguably one of Walmart’s most durable products, and it’s faster for me to glance at my wrist than it is to pocket and unpocket any other time-telling gizmo, including my phone. And that lithium battery drains ten thousand times more slowly than any phone battery will.
But then Apple went in an unexpected direction with their third platform plank: a new U2 album. For free. Finally, a product in my price range and tangential to my personal interests. Sold!